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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
Blackfriars 1599-1608
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0270  Thursday, 13 February 2003

From:           Chris Whatmore <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Feb 2003 18:05:03 +0000
Subject:        Blackfriars 1599-1608

My understanding of the Blackfriars story is that the Burbage brothers,
having been thwarted in their initial attempts to use the indoor theatre
as the Chamberlain's Men's permanent home, leased it to the Children of
the Chapel Royal from 1599 to 1608. Do we have any record of what the
boys performed during this period? And if so, did their repertoire
include Shakespeare? I am particularly interested in the possibility
that they might have put on As You Like It; and although I can find no
definitive historical evidence that they did, I wonder whether there is
definitive evidence that they did not?

In her introduction to the Arden edition, Agnes Latham suggests that the
number of songs in AYLI might indicate that the play was written as ?an
answer to the challenge of the children's companies, which were
naturally well supplied with singing voices, and were released from
inhibition in 1599?. In other words, the Chamberlain's Men would have
staged AYLI precisely to lure patrons AWAY from the boys at Blackfriars
and their ilk, and bring them back over the river to the newly-built
Globe. On the other hand, the play seems so manifestly well suited to
the Blackfriars environment that one wonders whether Shakespeare wrote
it with the smaller theatre in mind, perhaps hoping against hope that
the Privy Council's decision to bar his company from performing there
might have been overturned? (Not altogether a forlorn hope, given that
their patron was a member of the said Council!)

Chris Whatmore

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